In May 1943, it became the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States. The pilot, Lt. Robert Morgan, named the aircraft after his wartime girlfriend, Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tenn. Morgan chose the artwork from a 1941 George Petty illustration in Esquire magazine.
An except from the museum's website states:
"Flying in the 324th Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy), the Memphis Belle and its crew of 10 flew their first combat mission on Nov. 7, 1942. Until the arrival of long-range fighters later in the war, USAAF heavy bombers often flew without escort for part of their missions. Faced with hordes of enemy aircraft, deadly antiaircraft fire and the lack of friendly fighters in the target area, it was highly unlikely that a bomber crew would finish their required 25 missions."
"The crew of the Memphis Belle beat the odds with their 25th combat mission on May 17, 1943, against the naval yard at Lorient, France. Interestingly, this raid was the Belle's 24th combat mission--the original crew occasionally flew missions on other 91st BG (H) B-17s (and others took the Belle on some missions also). So, on May 19, the Memphis Belle flew its 25th combat mission on a strike against Kiel, Germany, while manned by a different crew."
Armament: 13 .50-cal machine guns (normally only 12 on combat missions) and 8,000 lbs of bombs Engines: Four 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-97 turbosupercharged radials Maximum speed: 325 mph Range: 2,800 miles Ceiling: 37,500 ft.
The exterior and interior have been undergoing a conservation and restoration, including corrosion treatment, the full outfitting of missing equipment and accurate markings.
Bob Bardua, USAF public affairs manager, said the museum hopes for the original Memphis Belle to go back on public display in 2018. In the meantime, the public can view the plane by taking the behind-the-scenes tour at the museum.
The Memphis Belle, a replica of the famous B-17 bomber that flew countless missions during World War II, is on display this weekend in Cincinnati. Jeff Creighton took a ride in 2012. Check out his pictures!Full Story >
The Memphis Belle, a replica of the famous B-17 bomber that flew countless missions during World War II, is on display this weekend in Cincinnati. Jeff Creighton took a ride in 2012. Check out his pictures! Full Story >